You win the game in the forwards. It’s a cliché as old as rugby league itself. New South Wales’ 26-18 victory in State of Origin Two was built from the same foundations as hundreds of years of victories before it. That Queensland managed to hold on, and even threaten to take the lead is a testament to their ability. The result – what we’ve all craved since about 2006 – is a third game to decide the series.
Ryan Hoffman (19 carries for 150m) walked away with the man-of-the-match award, but in truth it could have been handed to any number of blues forwards. In our view, Woods (18 for 162m) was tireless, continuing to show his position as the best prop in the game. His try in the second half came from nought but a decent line, some tired defence and powerful legs. Tamou (15 for 109m) and Gallen (17 for 137m) also routinely bent the Queensland line up the middle, even if Gallen did have a penchant for giving away costly penalties.
As instrumental as their work with the ball was the defence in the middle of the field. Blues forwards only had six missed tackles across the game, and restricted the Queensland forward pack. Only Corey Parker had over 100 metres, and only Josh McGuire (9.6 metres a carry) got anywhere close to 10 metres a carry. Queensland only managed 1062 metres for the entire game (compared to over 1300 for New South Wales), and found it difficult to end sets in anything that could remotely be considered attacking position.
Each of New South Wales’ tries came from this disparity of position and possession. Jennings’ opening score was just taking advantage of a single missed tackle. Their second try, although coming from a kick, came at the back end of a period in which New South Wales had played the game between their half way line and the Queensland line. The tries to Woods and Dugan, as well as the no-try to Pearce, all took advantage of the tiring right-side of Queensland’s defence at the back end of the game, a symptom of the physical dominance of the Blues. In particular Dugan strolled through a gap as if guided by Moses. The space had been forged by stress caused on the line in the centre of the park by the Blues forwards.
Queensland need not despair though. Thurston and Smith conducted their symphony as per usual. It was Smith’s brilliance out of dummy-half, a subtle two-step movement that put Corey Parker outside his man, which allowed him to put Scott over for Queensland’s first try. Thurston destroyed the right-side defence of New South Wales routinely. He put Slater in the space that – after exemplary work from Boyd – saw Inglis score Queensland’s second. And his chase of an excellent Smith kick gave Queensland the possession close to the line early in the second half. Their third try followed shortly after.
Cooper Cronk will also likely be back from game three. Queensland should be wary of ever letting Daly-Cherry Evans near a Maroon jersey again. After possibly being overawed last year, last night he just looked awful. The right side of Queensland’s attack rarely threatened without Thurston switching sides and DCE’s harried decision making stood in contrast to the composure of Cronk in game one.
And so we head to Lang Park, the series still alive. The questions are now on Queensland’s side of the ball. And it will all start with the forwards.
 The god, not the player